A Proper Star Wars Game!

The words: 'A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away' are ingrained in a lot of us; the familiar opening crawl of a Star Wars movie or piece of media. It has been a long time since a decent Star Wars game has graced our platform of choice, and I can happily say that not only is Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order decent, it's downright good stuff - I found it phenomenal really.

EA has not been able to deliver the kind of Star Wars game we've been looking for; they failed with both Battlefronts and cancelled numerous others. However, with Respawn's help they have finally brought back the fantasy of being a Jedi and delivered a solid game with nothing to hold it back, no micro-transactions and not a single loot box in sight.

There are cosmetics, but they are rewards for exploration and tracking off the beaten path to discover secrets and hidden areas.

In short, Jedi Fallen Order is a video game that rewards you for playing where you don't have to spend a hideous amount on anything.

So what makes Fallen Order so good?

Star Wars Story

The story? It's OK, it's nothing mind-blowing but it does a good job of being Star Wars and it takes the characters on a journey from start to end. There's the usual Star Wars tropes and it actually does a great job of taking the initial wiry protagonist Cal Kestis from Padawan to well, you'll see when you play it. I'll say this, to avoid the potential disappointment of some of you - no - there's no Light/Dark side choice in this game. You are a Jedi Padawan and a hero in the making. You're a Jedi on the run in a Galaxy that's been turned against the Jedi and once the tutorial is out of the way you'll face the might of the Empire head on.

I will say that a great cast of characters awaits you in this all new and canon story, with some homages and easter eggs that tie into the previous Star Wars offerings.

Sekiro/Souls Wars

From Software have had an impact on the video game industry at large, you can tell that, just like the Freeflow Combat system informed games like Sleeping Dogs and the Shadow of Mordor/War series - From's *Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro have definitely had an impact on Jedi Fallen Order.

In what ways, you may ask?

Combat: Battles in Jedi Fallen Order are fast-paced and involve learning attack patterns of enemies, from the lowliest Stormtrooper and their penchant for sometimes accurate blaster rifle fire, to the highly trained Jedi killers - the Purge Troopers.

They draw more from Sekiro than souls, allowing you to go on the defensive but use your enemies against each other. A quick parry from the Lightsabre can throw back a blaster bolt at the shooter, or send it against another enemy. A strike, measured, balanced and tempered from the sabre can make short work of basic enemies.

Reckless combat will end in defeat; button mashing is not the way of the Jedi in Fallen Order. Your enemies can and will bring you down, quickly.

Parry is your best friend and learning the parry time window across your chosen difficulty (we'll talk more about those later) is paramount to success in the game. A well timed parry can see you make a decisive strike in combat, strip an enemy of their stamina and render them vulnerable to a single finishing move that happens automatically as you connect with a final strike and Cal ends their resistance.

You can dodge as well; again, a well-timed dodge can open a chink in your foes' defences.

So a methodical combat system, with light, heavy, parries, dodges makes up the fight portion of the game. As well as your Force powers, such as Push and Pull, Slow, which lets you take a breather and sneak a few quick hits in on a tougher opponent or just even the odds.

As you fight and defeat foes, you'll get XP - get enough XP from battles/exploration and you'll unlock a skill point. These points can be spent in the skill tree and this is where another of From's mechanics wanders into Jedi Fallen Order.

Bonfires: Not quite like Bonfires/Shrines these Mediation Points allow Cal to take a breather and connect with the Force. Here you can Rest, Spend Skill Points, and trigger a checkpoint save that will respawn you if you die.

Cal's skill tree is pretty expansive and I'll let you explore that on your own.

Resting fills your Stim charges for healing (like Estus Flasks) and respawns all enemies (unless they're a special mini-boss or story foe). You're also fully healed and so on.

Death: There is no Death, only the Force. When you die, you're brought back to the last checkpoint you created and the enemy that killed you takes all your XP. They are easy to pick out and to get it back you just need to deal damage, not kill them. One hit will do it.

I'm a huge fan of From's titles, so I really love this and how it's all implemented in the game. Spot on.

One caveat: don't go into the combat system expecting dismemberment of human-like enemies. Creatures and robotic foes, yes, humans - no.

Uncharted Space

Jedi Fallen Order is a linear story set in a Metroidvania-style expansive level design, across numerous planets in the Star Wars Galaxy. There's a fair bit of back tracking and no fast-travel, since Respawn want you to explore every inch of their meticulously created levels and find all the cool secrets and visual story telling they spent hundreds of hours creating. There's a wealth of it too, and it's all quite brilliant.

Now even though I said linear there's a choice to explore at least one of the early planets before you go there in the story, and a lot of locations and areas are blocked off until you get enough power, or the right Force Ability to progress.

There's just enough on the planet to whet your appetite and even a few secrets that if you're wily enough, will make your journey on a lot easier at the start.

I like that kind of design, a lot.

It rewards the eager explorer and the risk taker, without ruining their ability to enjoy the story.

Now you might wonder why the Uncharted Space heading, well, this is where I feel Fallen Order draws another design or two from. Not only does it have a few awesome set pieces that really are great, it has a ton of traversal mechanics which draw from titles like Uncharted and the new Tomb Raider reboots.

Each location has a lot to offer and I'm not going to say much more than this, just be prepared to face foes and creatures.

Also, being a Respawn game, they couldn't skip the wall running... fortunately; it works really well and makes the levels a lot of fun to explore if you're into that kind of traversal. These elements are perfect for fans of Prince of Persia too, which Fallen Order also reminds me of here and there.

Your journey is made easier by the amazing BD-1, your droid buddy and companion who can project an informative detailed holomap at the press of a button. This full 3d holomap is key to getting about in Jedi Fallen Order and whilst you can't place a marker on the map to help you navigate, the map is extremely well done and shows you all the places you've discovered. Plotting a route requires you to look for visual cues in the landscape and read the map.

If you take a tumble off the edge of the level, you'll appear very close to where you fell and only lose a tiny bit of health - this is something I can appreciate a lot.

Stinger Mantis

When you're not on foot and exploring huge planets you'll be able to spend some quality time with Cere Junda and Greez, your new friends aboard the Stinger Mantis. This ship provides Cal's means to travel from world to world and enjoy some down-time.

You can catch up on the game's character lore, use your own private Meditation Point and customise your lightsabre here too.

Travel on the Mantis is in real time, the game will indicate you need to go to the co-pilots chair to land and you're treated to a cinematic arrival at your destination that just screams Star Wars - including the wipe fades.

An Elegant Weapon

The lightsabre is not just a weapon in the game, it's a personal statement and drawing from the likes of Galaxy's Edge there's a whole slew of customisation options from blade colour, to the various parts of the sabre itself. You can change your emitter, your switch, and more.

In-Game Unlockables

Hidden throughout your adventure are crates which will net you these sabre parts and more, including gold crates which boost your healing stim charges and other crates that unlock outfit cosmetics and so on. None of this is behind a paywall, and there are no hidden charges.

The Look, Feel of and sounds of Star Wars

Jedi Fallen Order is a superb game in this regard, drawing from a solid visual style and bringing to life the time of the Galactic Empire when the Jedi were hunted. Set before the likes of Rogue One and featuring a swathe of graphical homages to the Star Wars Universe we know and love. Respawn have created a visually great game, which might not blow some of you away, but as a Star Wars fan it was alive with all the visual bells and whistles I expected.

I was running this on an Xbox One X as well, so it looked really good.

There are some solid animations and the combat looks fluid and exciting, though the camera can be a touch overzealous at times and the lock-on system requires a few tweaks. I recommend only using it if you're battling a single foe and keeping the auto-lock turned off.

You can also throw the game into performance mode if you have any issues with the 4K mode on the Xbox One X. Respawn dropped a small patch recently that helps with frame issues and even some of the long load times the game can have.

I really enjoy the soundscape of this game, there's something wonderful about the hum and fizz of a lightsabre, something therapeutic almost in hearing that weapon's unique audio signature and how it interacts with the world.

The voice work is top notch with some wonderful one-liners from the enemies, and the fact they'll taunt you as you fight or stand there is great.

The main cast does a fantastic job and brings the story to life.

The music is suitably Star Wars and epic, adding to the whole package.

Play the Game How You Want

There are numerous difficulty options and the game is transparent in telling you just what they do, from Story mode where the game is designed to be chill and fun with a generous amount of parry time to the harder modes where the enemy aggression and so on is boosted, and your parry time window is wafer thin.

Jedi Master is the default setting for the game and provides a solid challenge. Those of you who are Souls veterans might want to up the difficulty, but the game can be extremely challenging in some encounters where an enemy can one-shot you with ease.

You can change difficulty at any time though, so don't be afraid to drop it down if it does become too tough.

Minor Things

Prior to the patch there was a need to drop the game into 1080p on the Xbox One X to bring the frame-rate troubles into line. It did stutter somewhat on the 4K setting, but the recent small patch managed to sort this issue out and the game is running smoothly on my console.

Long load times have also been reduced by the patch.

There's a more substantial patch on the way as well, but we don't know what that will entail.

As I said before, the issue I have is with the camera in combat, and that's about it. I had no other problems in my 40 or so hours with the game.

The Force is with Jedi Fallen Order

I've finished the campaign and a lot of the exploration, got all the collectibles and been back and forth from planet to planet finding the lore. This has taken me about 40 or so hours to do, perhaps even more if I totted it all up. I've had a lot of fun, not had to purchase a single bit of DLC or anything to enjoy a great Star Wars game and for me, a decent personal story that takes a character on a journey with some brilliant moments and some genuinely emotional ones too.

Fallen Order is just a game, no frills, no hidden charges.

EA can make more games like this and I'd be happy.

Respawn have nailed Star Wars, and this is the best Star Wars game I've played in a very long time.

It makes me wonder if they could handle a full-blown Star Wars RPG akin to KotoR...

Only time will tell, I guess.